The Fortunate Ones
This is a two-pronged review of two new records: Amy Speace’s How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat and Jeffrey Foucault’s Cold Satellite release #2 Cavalcade.
I had the good fortune to see Cold Satellite in Pittsburgh last Saturday night (4/13). Their six-piece gang narrowly fit the confines of Club Cafe’s modest stage. The crowd eventually swelled to perhaps three score, and those in attendance were charmed by Lisa Olstein’s poetry, Foucault’s vocals, and the estimable musicianship of the band. Cold Satellite is a provocative conceit: Olstein’s examinations coupled with Foucault’s arrangements. If, like me, you are unacquainted with Ms. Olstein, you should check out her work.
I have been a fan of Foucault’s since his 2006 release Ghost Repeater. I bought it at the suggestion of one of my musical gurus, Dave Jones of Ithaca, NY, a rum-diving compatriot from my ten years in attendance at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, an event I’ve not returned to since the tornadic activity of 27 July ’08…nonetheless, living in the wilds outside of Pittsburgh you might imagine that Foucault’s music receives little local airplay — and you’d be right…
So, on this night they (Cold Satellite) open with “Bomblet” and its opening salvo of “…at the rock n’ roll show, we hold up our phones, we thought we were takin’ pictures, but the phones are our candles, they are flames with camera eyes, they are flames…”, with a Harvest-era Neil Young beat and an intoxicating lap steel, the song suddenly launches into an electric guitar groove complemented by Foucault’s searching vocals, and I gave up any preconceived ideal I had about hearing “Mesa, Arizona” or any of the equally fine pennings from Ghost Repeater. Their set consisted mostly of takes from the new recording, with a lone nod to Foucault’s solo work, the magnificent “Northbound”. Early on, the talkoids at the bar threatened to diminish the beneficence of the band, but their blistering song “Elsewhere” — evocative of Alejandro Escovedo’s “Castanets” — caused a hush that survived even the quieter ballads. Should this splendid band visit your town — invite friends and find yourself on the receiving end of many a toast at evening’s end…
and this (with the brilliant Peter Mulvey on the art of songwriting):
As for Ms. Speace, I saw her perform at, again, Falcon Ridge, but curiously, she was part of the emerging artists’ showcase in 2007, I think. What stood out for me was her song, “The Real Thing”, a proclamation not often heard from those struggling in the low minor leagues of musicdom. She not only commanded the attention of the inveterate mid-afternoon listeners, her provocations caused many of the males in attendance to stir, first cerebrally and then, erogenously, as Peter Gabriel once sang with Genesis, “Erogenous zones I love you, without you what would a poor boy do?”…
So, last Sunday I found myself driving to Canton, Ohio for work and Sirius/XM’s Spectrum channel featured a Dave Marsh interview with Amy Speace…Now, I’ve been listening to her otherworldly introductory cut “The Sea and the Shore” for a week or so, thanks to an email positioning on my part…Not only have I been listening to it, but for the preceding week I’ve been scouring her site and iTunes to see if an early release is going to occur…no such luck…So, the Marsh interview is revelatory on several levels: Turns out the reason that Speace was part of an emerging artists’ showcase back in ’07 was due to her first career choice: the stage: she’s an accomplished actor. And, AND! the great thing about the new record is that she utilises (intentional English spelling) a Shakespeare quote as the launching point for each song…So, it turns out that Marsh is an early fan of Speace’s work and even wrote the liner notes on the new and soon-to-be-classic How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat.
My words and impressions are inadequate. To wit:
And what’s really great about this song is that she’s accompanied by the incomparable (or, the often-compared-to) John Fullbright.
There are a lot of great songs on this record. But, please, great No Depression-ists, don’t cherry pick this collection on iTunes. Buy the record. After all, how often do we find a cohesive song cycle that moves its fans in such fits of perfervidness?
(featuring the wunderkind Anthony DaCosta)
Bridey and I will be in attendance at Mountain Stage (on the road) in Morgantown, WV this Sunday. It’s a superb lineup:
Billy Bragg, The Flatlanders, Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche, Joe Pug, and Amy “The Real Thing” Speace”.
Blessings to the ND community, Pedro y Bridey